Swanage RNLI joins night time rescue mission as yacht catches fire

A late night call for help was answered by Swanage lifeboat volunteers on Saturday 13th April 2024 after a yacht caught fire in Poole Harbour and a solo sailor jumped into the water to escape.

A call for help came into Swanage at 11pm as the drama unfolded and the volunteer crew of the Shannon class lifeboat was asked by the Coastguard to assist Poole lifeboats and other emergency agencies.


Another night time launch for the Swanage Shannon class lifeboat

Sailor plunged into water to escape

The incident was reported by a husband and wife who were walking along the harbour on Saturday night and saw what they first thought was a barbecue on a yacht 50 metres from the shore.

But as the flames got stronger, they realised that something was wrong and phoned 999 for the Coastguard, then watched in horror as a figure jumped from the yacht into the water before what is thought to have been a propane cannister exploded.

Radio messages reported that the 24-foot yacht was well alight and that a crew member had plunged overboard and struggled to the next closest boat where he was clinging on – fortunately upwind of the flames which were blowing across the harbour.

As Swanage’s lifeboat sped towards the harbour entrance, permission was sought from the authorities to maintain a fast speed within the harbour, where boats are generally limited to between six and ten knots.


The yacht in Poole Harbour was well ablaze when the casualty jumped overboard

Oxygen had to be given

Swanage Lifeboat Station reported:

“We arrived on the scene at 11.40pm to find the small yacht burning brightly but still attached to its mooring. A safe distance was maintained while the situation was monitored.

“The yacht’s crew was woken up by a carbon monoxide alarm on board, discovered the fire and quickly realised it could not be fought, so abandoned the yacht.

“From the shore, on scene Coastguards had eyes on the casualty, who had jumped overboard and swum to another boat, where he had been clinging on.

“Poole lifeboat crew recovered him from the boat and carried out casualty care, as the sailor was very cold, and needed oxygen to be administered.”

A night time launch for Swanage’s all weather lifeboat

Swanage’s all weather Shannon class lifeboat was once again in action

Casualty taken to hospital

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue were also on scene and an ambulance had been requested to attend.

The casualty confirmed that he was the only person onboard the stricken vessel and was taken ashore where he was transferred into the care of the waiting ambulance crew and transferred to hospital. He is not believed to have suffered any serious injury.

All three lifeboats stayed on the scene while the fire was burning out and until the UK Coastguard was happy that the situation would not deteriorate. The yacht subsequently sank and it is not known when or whether it will be recovered.

Swanage lifeboat left the scene at 12.33am and was back on the slipway at 1.30am, where the lifeboat was washed and re-fuelled.


Volunteers are being sought for the RNLI’s Mayday Mile appeal to raise funds for the charity

Mayday Mile appeal

Separately, Swanage lifeboat crews have called for local residents to support the RNLI’s national Mayday Mile appeal to raise vital funds for the life-saving charity.

A spokesperson for Swanage Lifeboat Station said:

“Since its foundation in 1875, volunteer crews from Swanage Lifeboat Station have launched over 3,100 times, and saved nearly 800 lives, none of which could happen without the generous donations of our local community.

“We are asking locals to take on the Mayday Mile, and walk a mile a day this May – or run, swim, skip or cycle, whatever you like! – to help raise funds to provide the vital equipment and training needed to help the RNLI save lives at sea.”

Further information

  • Sign up for the Mayday Mile and learn how to raise funds on the RNLI website

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